California to Puerto Rico

15

Sep, 2013

Equal Rights For Consumers in Puerto Rico

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PR and USA License PlateIt should go without saying that residents in Puerto Rico should be treated fairly and not be discriminated against. Whether it be because they are Americans, they are Puerto Ricans or because they live on this awesome island called Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. As an American in Puerto Rico I have experienced discrimination within Puerto Rico and as a Puerto Rico resident, I have experienced discrimination from American companies that treat residences of Puerto Rico differently simply because we live in Puerto Rico.

I am going to give a few examples of my personal experiences of discrimination while living in Puerto Rico. Before I start, I think it is important to let all of you know how much I love it here and how much I love my friends and neighbors. Pride of heritage is one of the admirable qualities of all the Puerto Ricans I know and since I didn’t grow up with that nationalistic enthusiasm, I want to make sure I don’t offend any of mí gente in PR.

Americans Discriminated Against in Puerto Rico

Prejudice in Puerto RicoMuch like the places I have lived in the United States, generalizing an entire population of an area just doesn’t work when trying to map out prejudice and discrimination. For example, when I lived in North Carolina, most of the people I met greeted me with open arms, but there were some that were so prejudiced against Yankee’s (I’m from New Jersey) that they would ignore my very existence in a room. These people were the minority and despite their ill behavior towards me, I absolutely loved Wilmington, North Carolina and consider it one of the safest most amazing places I have ever lived.

Well, the same type of discrimination goes on here in Puerto Rico. There is a minority of people on the island that just don’t care for the Americans that have made the island their home. I do my best to ignore these people and give them the space their vibe, or sometimes their voice, is asking for.

More common than the low percentage of Puerto Ricans that don’t want Americans on their island, are Puerto Rican’s that see all American’s as independently wealthy adults or trust fund kids. These are the types of people that steal and overcharge Americans. The thieves will break into rental cars, houses, hotel rooms and steal things from tourists. The overchargers are businesses and services that offer “Gringo Pricing” versus what they charge the locals. I have had encounters with both types of people, but experience Gringo Pricing regularly to this day.

I usually get Gringo pricing when working on the house. Prices change when I call for material costs versus one of my fluent Puerto Rican friends. I regularly ask my neighbors to call when getting estimates and supplies costs on construction supplies, manual labor estimates and backhoe, digger and power equipment rentals. I’m lucky to have such awesome neighbors and Sydney is lucky to have 3 abuelas that live right up the driveway.

Puerto Rican Discriminated Against By American Companies

By far, the most aggravating discrimination that everyone in Puerto Rico deals with on a regular basis regardless of their birth right to the island is shipping of goods when shopping online. Many retailers try to charge international rates or refuse to ship because they don’t want to deal with customs. Ignorance leads this parade of retailers because shipping to Puerto Rico can be done via ‘ground shipping’ with both USPS & FedEx and the United States Post Office offers PO Boxes and the same shipping rates as shipping from California to New York. That’s right, same price, no customs and no special rates needed yet many retailers discriminate against Puerto Rico and refuse to ship here. Up until recently, the biggest offenders in my book were Amazon and Apple. Both of these companies have overturned their no shipping or overpriced shipping options to Puerto Rico. Apple did it on their own, but it took a lawsuit to start offering reasonable shipping rates again.
Shipping To Puerto Rico
In 2010, the Government of Puerto Rico started DACO which is a Anti-Discrimination Commercial Office to fight consumer complaints and descrimination against Puerto Rico. Amongst the 250 companies in the states that DACO has contacted in regards to either offering reasonable shipping rates or some type of shipping was Amazon. From what I read in in this article, DACO actually took Amazon to court and one getting Amazon to offer Prime Shipping services as well as reasonably priced per order shipping prices to the consumers of Puerto Rico!

We need equal rights for consumers in Puerto Rico!

The reason I even decided to write this post was because a friend of mine told me she just saved $100 when booking a flight on United Airlines for putting a U.S. billing address instead of her Puerto Rico billing address. I sent her the link to file a complaint with DACO about being discriminated against. Have you had any experiences like this? I’d love to hear your take on all this stuff.

Comments

33 thoughts on “Equal Rights For Consumers in Puerto Rico

  1. Liz

    I’m a Puerto Rican and as a child I lived in both PR and the states and when I went to school in PR I was always called “la Americana.” LOL

  2. Wil

    Glad u wrote this. Yes, the local business Gringo Price is something I am trying to BEAT, not sure if I can. I know the locals are NOT paying the prices I am quoted for house repair work. The local GRINGO contractors ALSO charge the Gringos a higher rate. I have had quotes that are higher than in suburban NJ! Everyone seems to think we are rich. My neighbor said she thought I had $$$ (rich), so I filled her in.. I am unemployed for 4 years, and if I was rich I wouldn’t have broken windows in my house. Maybe that sunk in?? I don’t know how to get around this perception…

    • Summer

      Wil – Yes, exactly. It takes a while to figure out how to avoid the gringo tax. And you’re right, the gringo contractors are usually the worst! For me, I think it took about 4 years for local Puerto Ricans (even my neighbors!) to start recognizing me as a year round local, but once they do they are SO nice and even put up with my Spanglish ;). I’m sure that it would be a quicker/easier transition if I was fluent in Spanish, so I take that into account.

  3. Rosana

    You and Summer bring up such relevant topics on your blog. I think that once I return to PR, I will contact you and we will start a movement to wake Puerto Ricans up. Their voices have been directed by “leaders” for so long, that they don’t even know they have one. People like you (open minded) is what they need, so they can learn how to gain their independence. Last but not least, thank you for not generalizing. I think everywhere in the world you will find the same kind of people and ignorance will always be the root of the matter. Great post!

  4. Luis Marengo

    I live in Pennsylvania, but have two siblings that live in PR. Countless of times they had to ship their goods to my house, so that I can reship the package to them. It doesn’t make any sense.

    BTW, I enjoy your blog!

  5. Nora

    I can definitely relate with the shipping prices or hassle when buying online and trying to ship to the island. My parents live in PR and every special occasion (xmas, birthdays, etc.), I have to go through several online vendors to locate what I would like to ship to only find out at the very end of the whole purchasing process that they either do not ship to PR or any “international” country, hello?, or the price for shipping is insane. It is very frustrating to say the least and instead of getting better I find it that it has become more difficult in the past couple of years. Recently, I have opted by buying online from the local Walmart or Sears in Mayaguez and have my parents either pick the item up at the store or have it shipped for another costly fee.

    By the way, I believe DACO has been around for a long time. I remember them regulating prices on basic consumable items such as milk, food, rice, etc. back when I was growing up there.

    Can I just say THANK YOU to you and Summer for such a wonderful website and blog. I truly enjoy all your posts. I was getting worried for a while as I had not seen much this year but have been pleasantly surprised by your recent posts. Best to you and your family always!

    Nora

  6. Wil

    I need to add that my neighbors who are older or retired from working in the states don’t have the ‘rich ‘ perception. They are WONDERFUL people! I am overwhelmed daily by their generosity. One has a retired contractor brother who I will be approaching to do work. Thanks Summer for giving me hope (4 years!). I feel bad I don’t know more Spanish, but will learn. I agree on that comment too!!!

  7. James

    Amazon still jacks me on prices. I recently had a Logitech keyboard eaten by bugs (that is right, insects got into the keyboard and ate it). I went to order a replacement Microsoft Wireless 800 for business, and they would not ship it here, but would ship it to my parents house in California. I had to order the more expensive Microsoft 800 retail package that they would ship. I’ve had both and it is the exact same keyboard.

    I have also gotten gringo prices at a restaurant in Aguada. I am trying to buy a house in Isabela and I am not looking forward to dealing with the contractors. Fortunately a friend that is helping me is very feisty and she will not let me get ripped off.

  8. Stefan

    James – That reminds me. I didn’t add the fact that companies aren’t aloud to ship electronics to Puerto Rico. I’m not sure why this is, but I’ve been told it is some sort of trade embargo so the government can tax electronics…but I’m not sure. Anyone else out there have any insight on why Amazon and electronics companies can’t ship directly to Puerto Rico?

  9. Wil

    The embargo stuff needs more investigation. Because it significantly effects PR. The guys who picked my avocado tree say the product can NOT be shipped to the US DIRECTLY. What happens is it goes to S. America, or Mexico, gets processed and then goes to the US. The embargo prevents PR from doing trade (many items) directly with the US mainland. This directly effects, or depresses, PR’s economy. I am not sure if a change in commonwealth status would change this.

  10. Doug and Millie

    We go to Home Depot in Ponce for most of our building supplies even though its a 40 minute ride plus tolls.

    Sand , Rock, Cement , Block and real quick stuff we need ,we get at either Salinas Lumber or Jauca Hardware. The people there treat us real nice and dont overcharge us . They even give us free delivery.

    I’m a gringo and I never seen discrimination as long as I’ve been living or visiting here………People here are allways willing to help me where ever I go..

  11. Katrina

    Just got a slide box,and CD boxes from Amazon shipped for,free and a bread maker. 1800contacts also. If you call and snooze they’ll do it- you give them a stateside address and have them manually override where they ship once the order is in. Another fine example of the absurdities here but if your phone connection stays connected long enough you can do it!

  12. Katrina

    Wil – there are I think only 2 places where plants and seeds can enter the US. I think it is part of the bigger Monsanto plot to limit and own all seed. Most seed will get radiated and a lot will not be viable after entry from other countries (meaning anything not mainland)

  13. James

    I do not know about any embargo, because they had no problem sending me the expensive keyboard. Last month I tried to order some exercise bands from Amazon, and none of them could be shipped here. A few months ago they sent 2 different yoga mats. They would not ship any of the pots and pans that I ordered. They sent a Sandisk USB drive, but would not send a Kingston. I have not been able to figure out what they will ship here and what they won’t. It does not make any sense to me.

  14. Jeff

    I call Amazon every time and play dumb “my items qualify for free supper saver shipping but I can’t select it when I go to check out”. They get confused every time and tell me to place the order with the shipping charges and they will manually remove them. Works almost every time.

  15. Rosana

    Could it be possible that this is just another side effect of the “ambivalent” status of the Island in regards to the relationship with the USA?

  16. Fran and Steve

    Amazon has a new bag of tricks. We have Amazon Prime and tried to order a few things–lightweight, small, no chemicals, no liquids, no electronics. They wouldn’t even ship them to PR, never mind applying shipping charges. These are the same items we ordered and received in May. I was on the phone (and on hold) with them for over an hour, and bottom line was that the same policy applies to AK and HI. “Warranty issues and manufacturer restrictions prevent us from shipping certain products to all geographical locations. ” I even tried Jeff’s trick, with no luck. — Fran

  17. Maritza

    I just found this blog and I love it… Well,today I spent many hrs. looking to buy a tablet almost in every website. Of course, Dell and Amazon don’t send electronics to PR and they have the perfect one for me. I’m going to give up! >> I work with many Northamerican adults students here in PR so I try to teach them how to be careful about their money. People think that if you drive a Mercedes or a Lexus you have money too. Do you know about shiptopuertorico.com? They give you a mail address in Florida and Amazon, Target, etc. send the package there. Then shiptopr.com will send you the item in a box you bought before. Sorry, excuse my English!

  18. Lou

    Thanks for a very interesting & enlightening blog, Stefan. My wife & I have enjoyed reading & exploring some of the topics highlighted in your blog, specially since we are in the process of building a home in Calvache. Having grown up in the island and currently living in the states (since 1978) I can tell you that it’s not just “gringos” that get a little cold shoulder from a few locals every now n then. Whenever I travel to the island to see family & friends, the assumption by some is that I’m loaded with cash. Most of the time it’s just a nuisance, other times not so much. The shipping to PR issue is also a thorn on my (our) side. Whether it’s political ambivalence or not, we’ve had to get creative when shipping to family. Not a fan of box stores but as mentioned before, buying online from Walmart, Walgreens, Sears, even Home Depot and having the item picked up locally has worked for some items. One of the previous posters is correct, DACO has been around for quite a few decades, however it has always been understaffed, under funded & poorly focused. Btw, we liked the tile work! Where did you get the tile if I may ask?
    Wishing you, Summer and Sydney the best in your continued endeavors in “our island”!
    Lou & Cheryl

  19. Robert

    Hi!

    Naturally this is all of interest to me as we are buying a place in PR (at the other end of the island in Fajardo) and we are interested in all things local (to PR) as we have to buy a car, furnish the condo, etc.

    I can help with at least one comment here on the airfare “overcharge” question: It’s not PR specific; everyone gets this treatment as ticket prices are all about supply and demand which changes constantly. It used to not be this way but airlines are much smarter now. It’s really all about your IP address. Depending on where you log in from the airlines will change the price on a given ticket. If you are in a captive market like PR, the prices shown will be higher for the same ticket than if you are, say, in Canada, or a highly competitive market like Miami. If you want to get a lower priced ticket you may have to proxy browse, use a remote terminal to log in or have someone somewhere else look for you so that when the airline (or any other savvy business) sees the IP address you are not automatically given a higher fare based on your perceived physical locale.

    Also, ever notice that after you’ve visited a website a couple of times that your ticket is suddenly “sold out” and only a higher priced one is available? If you surf the same airfare too many times, the airline will think that you through planning your trip and are now ready to purchase. That’s when they will hike the ticket price.

    Hint: Learn to clear your cookies-they give you away!

    BTW, I just found you. It’s nice site with lots of info in your blog. Now I get to go back through all 61 pages to see what I missed!

    Robert

  20. PJ Canales

    I Can Relate First Hand, On Everything You Are Saying. I Have Live Here In Puerto Rico For 3 Years Now.An Let Me Tell You Yes it’s a beautiful place there are some very nice people who are down to earth and can understand My perspective.But for the most part PR Has alot of catching up to do, It reminds me of how NY used to be 20 years ago I Mean People here are just to used to being surpressed….Like Today 2 of my fellow co-workers were in the main office talking very quietly so my director of the department comes out and starts screaming and cursing “don’t be whispering and f*cking talking Gossip An Sh*t…So After he was done I said to him why are you screaming and cursing at us that’s not professional and I don’t appreciate how he was being disrespectful to me….So He Said”I wasn’t talking indirectly to you I was talking to every one here and who ever doesn’t like that sh*t can clock out an go home” So I said Ok An I clocked out and went home immediately Calling Human Resources,But who knows what good that will do He’s probably related to them…But my point is No ONE ELSE Stood Up For Their Rights…They all Stood Silently…I’m Like He Can Talk To Us in this manner An their like Sh Sh Sh I’m Like WOW What Is Wrong With People…Im Not Really To Worried Cause it was all on camera.What people here don’t get is it takes strength in Number For Things To Change…You Really Thing He Could Send Us All Home…No Way…I Work For A Security Company There Are Posts That Can NOT BE LEFT UN-MANNED..So what would Have Happened Then If Everyone Decided To Go Home?

  21. Frank

    I am a New York Rican and I get called a Gringo (hate it) all the time and lets not start with the shipping part, I am a PC Tech and I get over price or door slammed in my face telling me they can’t ship internationally. It’s frustrating.

  22. Karen

    As of last month Apple would not honor my apple care plan by sending out a replacement part ( a lousy cord) that I needed. I had to pay them up front, have it shipped to a relative in the states and THEN I only had 10 days to return it or else they would not reimburse me. I hate apple now.

  23. whatamess

    I have been following you for some time, but had not read this piece. I have to agree that this exists and it is incredibly unfair. However, please note that although you may think they are discriminating because you are “American”, there are plenty here who discriminate against “everyone who they believe has more than them.” About 8 years ago I moved to Caguas from the US (lived in the us about 20yrs, but I was born in PR and speak fluent Spanish, my husband is also from Puerto Rico). We were told a fence for our new home would be about 800USD each side. Once we called, everyone wanted over 5K for the same fence we were told would cost 800USD. We had friends who lived in other communities and received a MUCH CHEAPER deal for everything. Even the AEE, i.e. power authority charged us constantly about 550USD for electricity, although we only had one AC, 2adts/1chd in the house, no oven, no pool, etc. When we questioned the AEE company their response was “if you want to live like rich people, pay like rich people”. It is a sad truth that this occurs here constantly. I am from here and am pretty worn out by it. I have zero tolerance for it. But I wanted to let you know this does NOT only happen to Americans, it happens to many Puerto Ricans who return to the island, it happens to many Puerto Ricans considered “blanquitos” in the island…there is no doubt some extreme discrimination by not just some, but many here…we just keep to ourselves and ignore the rest.

  24. whatamess

    By the way, I see the airfare stories here, let me tell you that it is not always what it seems. I worked for major companies which sold airline tickets for many years. There are only a certain number of seats that are sold at each specific price. Years ago, you only had agencies and airlines looking for those 200USD seats, let’s say 40 of them on any particular flight…today? You have thousands of people, all over the world, going through travel sites and checking seats to see what is the cheapest. While the sites will tell you “we have this seat for 200USD”, if you don’t put it on hold, by the time you go to another website, someone else, on the other side of the world did put it on hold and took the last two seats or whatever that were left at the “cheap 200USD price”. So my advice? You can usually put on hold flights for at least 24hrs, ALWAYS do this…otherwise, odds are someone else will grab them by the time you move to another site. PS and if it seems clearing your cookies is the issue, I assure you it is not. It might be that someone put those 2 cheap seats on hold, never purchased them and the system returned those 2 cheap seats back to inventory.

  25. JB

    We are considering a move to PR but after reading through this blog wonder whether it is worth it. In particular the high cost of electricity and the racism.
    We figure to dry our clothes on a line but bigotry is something you can’t put a price on. Always thought Puerto Rican people as warm and friendly as well as proud Americans; they have fought and died for America and have the medals of honor to prove it. Please tell us that “gringo pricing” is a aberration.
    JB
    PS-like the blob but where is the fishing report?

    • Stefan

      JB – There is as much racism here as there is on the mainland on the United States. Most of the people I meet here are warm and inviting people regardless of where I am from. The difference is, as an Anglo Saxon, for the first time in my life I am on the receiving end of the little racism there is. Someone mentioned above that the people that overcharge Americans here are probably seedy characters you don’t want to deal with anyway…and they are absolutely right.

  26. Bruny Sepulveda

    Hi Stefan, been away for a while but I’m playing catch-up. Why do we have so many problems trying to ship to Puerto Rico. That is the same question I asked myself years ago when trying to ship stuff I had ordered on the internet from places like “Overstock, Amazon and other companies. I bought a house in Gurabo 5 years ago and I was trying to furnish it with stuff from U.S. companies, but I would always face a wall on this …. ” we don’t ship to Hawaii, Alaska or Puerto Rico!! Well I started to do some research to see WHY this was so. Here’s what I found:
    Wesley Livsey Jones (October 9, 1863 – November 19, 1932) was an American politician. Jones was born near Bethany, Illinois, and attended Southern Illinois College. Jones started a law practice in Decatur, Illinois, and later relocated to North Yakima, Washington.

    Jones served in the House of Representatives from 1899 to 1909 and as a Republican United States Senator from Washington from 1909 until his death in 1932. He served as the Senate majority whip between 1924 and 1929. He was a successful advocate for federal investment in Pacific Northwest, securing funding for several irrigation projects and funding for the Puget Sound Navy Yard in Bremerton, Washington. In 1920 he sponsored and secured passage of the Jones Merchant Marine Act, which stipulated that only American ships could carry cargo between American ports, thereby making Alaska dependent on Seattle-based shipping. Jones was a vocal proponent of prohibition throughout his political career, a stance that initially aided his popularity but eventually contributed to his electoral defeat in 1932.

    And there you have it… why it is so hard to get stuff here from the “mainland”, the good ole’ Jones Act of 1920!

    It is easier to order stuff from China than from the U.S.! It’s unbelievable to say the least.

    AND, as far as being treated differently by mediocre contractors in P.R. and I do mean MEDIOCRE, just because I came back from N.Y. to retire in my beautiful island …. well that’s another story. Like I said, I bought a house in a gated residential area in Gurabo, P.R. and I was looking to have some reno’s done… well honey, I was bilked out of over $6,000 just for painting the outside of my house and the guy didn’t even want to paint under the eves… because that wasn’t part of the house!!
    I can relate to you guys and I feel your pain… mind you, I’m a native born in Mayaguez! But, all in all, we are a friendly people and I do wish your initial experience here would have been different. If there’s a way I can make up for some of the misses, let me know :o)

  27. Richard Allen

    Don’t use the term “gringo”. It belongs in Mexico where there is an ongoing dislike of the US (they remember 1845). In 12 years here I have only been called that twice by rather low type persons. If you get called that term, don’t accept it. Use Anglo or Continental, as using “American” is also self-exclusive.
    I also have never been overcharged by anyone though I have built many buildings and repaired more. I always felt I was undercharged many times. It basically comes down to dealing with nice people rather than questionable ones.
    I also find most PR people to be quite honoured to know that you choose to live here. Never in 12 years have I been dishonoured for being Anglo–never. Compare that to Hawaii where someone from the states is disliked commonly by locals.
    Maybe there are regional differences. I get around quite a bit, but Rincon is different in many ways from most towns in PR.
    As for shipping problems, there is no real solution. We are bilked from those who know better or those who are ignorant. Amazon used to be fair but changed inexplicably. There are companies on the internet who do not charge more. Otherwise if you have to buy it send it stateside and have it remailed.
    Thanks fir a great blog.

  28. jacqueline venancio

    go i love your blog was born in newyork my familia from rincon i owen a home and wish to go back and live my heart is in rincon pr best wishes hope to meet you guys

  29. joanna

    We found the same type of thing in many Latin American and Caribbean countries. In Jamaica, everything has a “hidden” local price. Any price that’s listed is tourist price.
    In Costa Rica, the tourists get charged a 24% tax on restaurant food, yet locals go to little diners called Soda with no such tax.

  30. Richard Allen

    First of all you discriminate against yourself in several ways. You call yourself “American”. This designation like “America” is.usually used only by US people (mainland), not generally by other people living in America.from the arctic to Tierra del Fuego. You call yourself by a word that seems to eliminate others not from US mainland. If you wish to use a cultural distinction, the word “Anglo” is more appropriate to distinguish you from “Hispanic”. The word “American” should not be used for seeming to attempt (unconsciously) being superior.
    “Gringo” is pejorative and a hateful word. It should never be used. Mexicans invented it to level approbrium on US whites whom they do not historically like. It is akin to the “n” or “s” word.
    I am Anglo living 12 years in PR, and have not experienced local discrimination in behaviour or in pricing. I consider myself a Puerto Rican by reason of my residence, and accept no appellations or associations as something other than that. Many people who have this problem would find that it stems from considering themselves different as Yankees or “Americans”, the misused word.
    You are entirely correct.about pricing discrimination (usually.shipping charges) from online companies. This is due to.ignorance of actual shipping rates and capabilities to downright thievery. Amazon used to never discriminate with PR. It was treated like any state. A few years.ago it changed. They began high charges and refused to sell many items. While it is true.that buying a large.heavy.item will cost more to ship to the island, it is not true of any item using USPS shipping. I have talked to them and written to them to no real avail. Amazon continues to discriminate, and one has to use a mainland address for free mailing and then have someone mail it again. I just boughtt from Coach to be discriminated against. Vote with your business against sellers who wish to disregard the truth.

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